Tom took an elevated position and surveyed the battlefields. He moved from one theatre of war to the next and he liked what he saw.
He felt emboldened.
He might not have the biggest or best army, and he definitely didn't have the strategic nous of some of the more experienced generals, but if there was one thing he knew how to do, it was prepare his troops.
Tom Adams, 39, is a details man. Few sweat the small stuff like Tom, so even as he left the combat zone he was already plotting.
Over the next few months he poured hours upon hours of his time and a little chunk of his soul into grooming his army. While others slept, he worked under the glare of a harsh light.
By the time the next battle commenced, he was ready. Again, he was outnumbered and outmanoeuvred.
But he won.
Those hours of toil and sacrifice were worth it as victory was declared.
Best painted model army: Tom Adams.
His prize: a $30 Mighty Ape voucher.
Oh, the spoils of war.
The first edition of Warhammer, the tabletop game that consists of miniature medieval fantasy armies taking on each other via convoluted books of rules, was rolled out in 1983. The first iteration of the most popular format – Warhammer 40,000, commonly expressed as 40K – in 1987.
Looking around the Mighty Ape warehouse in Silverdale, a regular venue for tournaments, it looks like some of the competitors haven't emerged from their bedrooms since that same year.
If this sounds a little unkind, let's not beat around the bushy beards: the nerd quotient is high.
"We're all nerds when we're in here," says Andrew Bartosh, 36, who, it has to be said, looks decidedly un-nerdy, "but at least we don't dress up."
Bartosh has a beard. It is neat and trimmed. This is important. On the nerd scale, on which Bartosh would sit very low, "neckbeards" are at that top. It's not necessarily a term of endearment but neither is it a nasty epithet.
"Neckbeards are your typical basement dwellers who are into that all that Napoleonic stuff," he says with a grin, his eyes casting around the venue, lingering a little longer on some players than others.
A piece in the Guardian last year described Warhammer as "Heroin for middle-class nerds". It's an evocative description, but over two visits to Silverdale, the gatherings seemed to attract a crowd that was little more catholic, small 'c', and while Warhammer might have acted as a fix, the party was fuelled by bottles of V and other high-sugar beverages.
There are players in T-shirts celebrating metal gods – Black Sabbath and Metallica respectively – and a couple of pre-teens cutting their milk teeth in the Warhammer world.
As with many such trivial pursuits, this is an overwhelmingly male sphere. There was just one female contender across the two events and even this was not strictly true in a biological sense as somebody helpfully, maybe a little too gleefully, pointed out.
"There aren't many ladies playing in New Zealand," says Bartosh. "I don't know why. Maybe hanging out in a warehouse with a bunch of overweight men playing games isn't attractive to women?"
Bartosh is a fire protection project manager. When he was a teenager he was into teenage things: cars, loud music, parties. It wasn't until the imminent birth of his first child that he decided he needed a "safer" outlet for his energies.
He looked up an old mate that had tried to introduce him to hobbying in his more reckless, less receptive days. This time his friend's enthusiasm for models and tabletop games stuck.
Bartosh is now a prominent figure in the New Zealand scene, not least because he is half of a Warhammer podcast called NZ40Kabal. The other half is Haydn Korach, another who packs up his toys on a Sunday and goes off to live a normal life – if you can call working the beat in Kaikohe normal – Monday to Friday.
Korach is one of the best players in New Zealand. Competitive gaming is his thing. Whereas some get involved in Warhammer for the sprawling stories behind the game – the lore – and some like Adams and Bartosh concentrate their energies on the craft side, for Korach it's all about playing and winning.
"It's a more strict way of playing I guess," he says. "I treat it like a competition rather than a fun thing to pick up on a Saturday afternoon and have a jam with."
There are various forms of tournaments, including singles, doubles and teams events. Competitors will play between three to six games over a tournament weekend.
Korach tries to attend at least two tournaments a month and this year led a New Zealand team to an event in Brisbane to play against the six Australian states plus the ACT.
How did he go?
"Not too good."
The lack of success came as no surprise to Korach. Having won the event in 2012 and 2013, New Zealand stopped sending teams. When they returned to Perth last year they finished last, with several of their best players unable to afford the cost of a weekend in Western Australia.
This year they won more individual matches but finished just one place better.
"South Australia came last. We'll take that," Korach laughs.
There are websites dedicated to tracking the progress of the game's most competitive players, including downunderpairings.com and fieldsofblood.com.
At the time of writing, Korach was fourth in the FOB New Zealand rankings, with 280.53 points accumulated over 10 events. Sean Sullivan leads with 296.31 over 11 events. In the DUP Australasian rankings he is 18th with 431.6772 points across five events. Those rankings are dominated by members of the powerhouse Queensland-based Godhammer Gaming club.
Some games find their way onto Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, but there will be no sudden esports-like televisual explosion, Bartosh believes, because of the lulls in action between moves that are the opposite of broadcast friendly.
The Holy Grail for the Warhammer community is the Las Vegas Open, but this year's competition was racked by bulletin board controversy when Tony Grippando ousted Alex Fennell on a rules infraction in the semifinals.
This was streamed live and the Warhammer community lost its collective mind. Grippando was painted as the game's bête noir and the ethical soup of competitive gaming was strained through a series of blog-post sieves.
In New Zealand things "get a bit testy" every now and then but as Bartosh says, enmity mostly takes the form of post-game backstabbing rather than any face-to-face confrontation.
"I tell them if they didn't complain about it during the game, there's no point crying about it after."
When you have no idea what's going on, a tournament is the worst place to find out. The multiple tabletops, constant sound of dice clattering and lore being spoken provides a disorienting backdrop.
To get a better idea, the Herald attended a Saturday morning doubles match in the lounge of a perfectly normal house in a perfectly normal in-filled suburb.
Surrounding the table were four men – a Pakeha, an Englishman, a Fijian Indian and a Maori – and if sounds like a set-up for a weak joke, then rest assured, they seemed like perfectly normal blokes – albeit blokes who have chosen to spend Saturday morning moving toys around an elaborately decorated table.
They realise it's something not everyone will get. They know that because the cynicism often starts at home. Adams' wife once came home to find some dirt baking on a tray in the same oven she was planning on cooking the evening meal in. Even the perfectly logical explanation that it was easier to paint dirt that was baked rather than fresh failed to convince her that it was the best use of the family Shacklock.
It's an easy setting, free of neckbeards and WAACs, a dismissive acronym for win-at-all-cost players. WAACs tend to learn the rulebooks backwards so they can pull out arcane moves to disturb the universe. They are also the type of players who bring monumental-sized armies to even the smallest of skirmishes and, when met by quizzical looks, are likely to utter something like, "You don't bring a knife to a gunfight".
"That Guy," says Sean, the pakeha.
It turns out he's not referring to anyone in particular, but is citing a popular Warhammer pejorative.
"It's the ultimate insult," says Taz. "Nobody wants to be That Guy."
Warhammer 40K is set in the 41st millennium. It's a dystopian world. The human race is on the precipice, under siege from aliens and the occult.
If you're seeing shades of Tolkien or Dune, you'd be right. The game's creator Rick Priestly has cited them as major influences, along with Milton's epic Paradise Lost, literature's most famous ode to the Fall of Man.
In turn, the imagery used in the games has had a huge influence of the world of film. Watching some of the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is like watching a three-dimensional version of Warhammer.
The game's literature is foreboding and never lets the opportunity for metaphor pass.
"For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth," says one Warhammer blurb. "He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the vast Imperium of Man for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day so that he may never truly die."
If you're a Lore-head you soak all this up, like hippies scrutinising every detail of a Grateful Dead song, to find the keys to the universe.
It is now that Taz, the Fijian Indian, begins an expansive riff on the valid science behind transhumanism, which is the concept of augmenting humans with technology to create an intermediary between humans and posthumans (basically robots or aliens).
This takes a darker turn when he explains how Warhammer has taken on many of the principles of transhumanism and Vinge Singularity – a concept frightening enough to make you consider the thought that one day Alexa or Siri might just do away with us all.
"It sounds ridiculous when I talk about it like this," says Taz, before bracing his ultramarines for an expected attack from Tom's tyranids.
Although on the one robotomised hand Taz is right, on the other he's under-selling the game and its wide appeal.
One of the reasons the wider Auckland area tournaments are held at Mighty Ape is that tabletop gamers make up for a fair chunk of its package delivering custom.
They have a sales manager specifically in charge of hobbies, David Greig, who says Mighty Ape has experienced "five years of significant growth" in the sector.
The company has put about $5000 into supplies to host the event and Greig estimates he has spent about 300 hours building the battle sets.
He does it not just because he's an avid player, but for commercial reasons too.
This stuff sells. And right now, even with the explosion of electronic gaming consoles that you might have thought would have rendered the more archaic forms of gaming redundant, it's particularly hot.
Games Workshop, the Nottingham-based company that owns the Warhammer franchise, saw pre-tax profits reach £74.5 million for the 2018 financial year, nearly double its 2017 numbers. Revenue surged to £220m.
Staff shared a large bonus pool in anticipation of the news and one of those counting his throne-gelts (sorry, clumsy Warhammer currency reference) would have been Rangitoto College alumnus Alexander Tuxford.
The Aucklander is the only New Zealander to have had a role as a Warhammer 40K product developer and we would have loved to have talked to him and if his messages are accurate he would have liked to talk to us, too.
Games Workshop, however, weren't so keen.
"At the moment, we'll have to decline your offer to interview Alex… We rarely authorise interviews with staff members here, and when we do, there are special circumstances for these to take place," said a company spokesperson, via email.
Luckily, "special circumstances" abounded when he gave a lengthy interview to Voxcast's Wade Pryce.
Tuxford love of the genre started by playing more rudimentary board games with friends.
"I got into the hobby by starting with HeroQuest and Space Crusade. [I] would go to friends' houses and play as much as I could," Tuxford told Pryce. "I really enjoyed reading all the rule books and snippets of lore. I thought it was the coolest stuff ever."
Tuxford realised there was a more expansive gaming world out there, with many enthusiasts gathering at the hobby shops that were tucked into small corners of suburban Auckland.
"What I was most drawn to was the background content to the stories. I didn't play a lot of the games. I tried my hand a little bit at modelling and painting and I never really took to it. It wasn't the way I chose to engage with the hobby. It was more reading the background and funnily the rules as well as a way to understand the universes that were being portrayed… It was a gateway I've been walking through ever since."
Tuxford learned more about the Games Workshop and began to see Nottingham as some sort of exotic beacon of hope for the universe, a place not full of pubs and housing estates but miniature space marines and blood angels saving the world from necrons, eldars and other malevolent creatures.
Tuxford was on his OE and found himself in Nottingham at a serendipitous time, just as Games Workshop was looking for a background writer.
He has not looked back, which is probably a given seeing that his vision is projected some 38 millennia into the future.
"It's exciting, challenging, rewarding and a lot of fun," he said, and it's that final point that is the most important.
Warhammer 40K is booming. It does so because it attracts a lot of hobbyists and obsessives. It attracts those who like competition and those who like craft.
The secret of its success is that it takes Priestley's imagination and allows users to untether it and take it in independent directions.
It attracts those who enjoy the world of fantasy and those, like Taz, who see an element of prescience in the dystopia.
It attracts neckbeards and WAACs and young and old.
If you look hard enough, you'll find a That Guy at most events.
It hasn't, of yet, attracted women to the gaming side (there are several fantastic female artists).
It attracts its fair share of cynics and those who mock it as a kid's games played by lonely adults.
For that reason, it will never be mainstream. It will never attract networks, or big-money advertisers and sponsors.
Successful players and painters will have to make do, for the foreseeable future at least, with vouchers that might just cover the cost of petrol getting to the event.
As with any war, even the ones where the very existence of this planet and others beyond the 41st millennium is at stake, it is only the ones who make the weapons who get rich.